P&PDL Picture of the Week for
April 26, 2010

Wild Garlic

Glenn Nice and Bill Johnson, Department of Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University

Last week I had the pleasure of being in the Southeast part of Indiana counting weeds.  It is occasionally part of the job being in weed science and although it probably would not make it on the show “Dirty Jobs” it can be pretty hard on the knees.  While face down I noticed that the weed we were counting the most was wild garlic (Allium vineale L.). 

Originally introduced from Europe, wild garlic is a perennial that can be found though out the state of Indiana.  It has linear leaves that are hollow and looks like chives growing in the field or yard.  It can be separated from wild onion by the fact that wild onion’s leaves are not hollow and wild onion often appears to be smaller in stature.  If you have a chance to dig wild garlic up you will see that its leaves come from an underground bulb.  No surprise there, for wild garlic is related to the very onion (A. cepa L.) we buy in the grocery store.  If you break wild garlic’s leaves and take a sniff, you will smell a distinct onion or garlic smell.  It spreads by aerial bulbs or bulbs in the soil, seeds are reported to not be a common way of spread.

Wild garlic has occasionally been used as an edible and medicinal plant.  Although toxicity is not commonly reported in wild garlic, large doses in a short period of time may cause problems due to sulfoxides found in the plant, not to mention bad breath.  In the article “Wild Garlic, Allium vineale L. – Little to Crow About,” the author sited a case reported by the Indiana Academy of Science of cattle poisoning in 1917.  I could not find a copy of the original report for any details. 

Wild garlic is most troublesome in wheat where the aerial bulbs are similar in size as wheat grain.  These bulbs can get processed with the grain and taint the flavor of flower.  It also can be a weed in pastures, where it can also alter the flavor of milk.  Wild garlic is often present when planting soybean and corn.  We have also received calls regarding wild garlic control in lawns.

For information regarding control please see the complete article “Wild Garlic,” on the Purdue Weed Science web page.

Click image to enlarge

Wild garlic

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service